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Hard day’s ride

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

Delayed arrivals, crammed carriages and having to stand for most of the trip is a reality for most Wairarapa train commuters.

And while solutions to most of these issues have been promised, consistently reliable trains may still be some way off, a new report has revealed.

If the schedules are anything to go by, no more than 15 hours a week should be spent on the train if you’re travelling from Carterton to Wellington.

But Debi Lodge-Schnellenberg says she is often stuck onboard for up to 20 hours a week due to delays.

She rises before 5am to board the first train out of the region at 6am, but often only arrives in Wellington CBD two hours later.

For those travelling from Masterton, that means a 2h15m trip instead of the scheduled 1h45m.

Unsurprisingly, the punctuality of the Wairarapa line remains low – coming in at just 61 per cent for March, and 65.4 per cent year-to-date.

That’s according to a report presented at the Greater Wellington Regional Sustainable Transport Committee on Tuesday by the committee’s general manager.

In comparison, the Kapiti line’s punctuality in March was 90.8 per cent, and 97.2 year-to-date.

The poor on-time performance is blamed on speed restrictions while the network undergoes maintenance work, including north of Upper Hutt where rails and sleepers are being replaced.

To speed this up, the regional council has agreed to contribute additional funding to complete the work before June this year.

“Together with KiwiRail’s contribution, the work will see an additional $1m targeted at reducing speed restrictions,” the report stated.

“Unfortunately, the Wairarapa Line will still require significant additional investment in the track asset to be able to provide a consistently reliable service.”

While Mrs Lodge-Schnellenberg accepts delays due to maintenance, she blamed Hutt Valley commuters who chose to take the Wairarapa train, therefore filling the carriages and delaying the service.

The Wairarapa train was more appealing to many Hutt Valley commuters because of its tables, more comfortable seats, power points, and toilets.

“You can’t go to the toilet because there are people in the way,” she said.

“Wairarapa people who want to get off in Waterloo or Petone have to fight their way through – the guards even have to fight their way through.”

Regional council figures show that the number of Wairarapa passengers has increased by three per cent so far this year, on top of a five per cent increase in 2016.

Up to 1350 passengers use the Wairarapa service during weekday morning peak hours.

Masterton resident and train enthusiast Iain Palmer said the council was seeing the seating and delay issues from the wrong viewpoint.

“It’s a Wairarapa service, it’s a Wairarapa issue and they need to understand it from a Wairarapa perspective and I don’t think they are.”

He said that while the council introduced new carriages in 2011, they should also have started planning the introduction of further carriages now.

“We have constant growth and again they must have foreseen this”.

Last week a regional council spokesperson told the Times-Age they were working on making the two types of train carriages used for the Wairarapa services compatible with each other.

“Then we should be able to run two peak services as eight car trains, whereas currently only one is run as an eight-car train — this will increase capacity for each peak by about 150.”

The regional council owns all the region’s trains and stations, while Transdev operates the Metlink rail services with KiwiRail owning the tracks.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Carriages have improved , but its still the same slow slack service it was 25 years ago! But it costs a lot more!

  2. “Last week a regional council spokesperson told the Times-Age they were working on making the two types of train carriages used for the Wairarapa services compatible with each other.” Yeah Right.

    Been hearing that for more than a year now. Are there any specific plan objectives and/or milestones in achieving that plan that can be disclosed? Have they carried out the engineering design ? Budgeted for the cost? Started making or converting anything to make it work?

  3. Once it hits the lines where the Wellington trains run make it no stop service. Sort that part it the problem

Comments are closed.

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